Newark is Soccer Paradise.
The best soccer fans in America live in New Jersey, especially in and around Newark. Soccer at every level breathes here every day, as it has for over a century. You can find an argument about Messi versus Ronaldo in every restaurant, bar, cafe, or street corner. A heated one at that. Every weekend and some midweek afternoons Ferry Street fills with fans of all kinds of teams from around the world supporting their clubs in Cup and League matches, and when nations play a big game you won’t have to ask who’s playing or who won. You’ll know.
A long time ago immigrant workers brought this game, the game that unites every part of the world, to American soil. The Northeast played the part of organizing this activity into meaningful contests. The first soccer league, the American Football Association, was created in 1884 and was headquartered in Newark. One historic club with proof of its near-century existence and success sits on Prospect Street near Ferry Street: Sport Club Portugues.
There are many other soccer clubs at home in Newark. The Jersey Express Soccer Club represents the Ironbound in the Premier Development League and the Super-20 League. College teams include Essex County College and NJIT, which competes at the Division 1 level. Rutgers Newark will play downtown tonight at 7:30. And finally, the greatest scholastic soccer gem in Newark, Saint Benedict’s Prep, is completing yet another astonishing season. The national champions are currently flawless with a 16-0 record. Their State Semifinal today at the NJIT field will begin at 2:00.
There is another team here. The Metrostars, temporarily Red Bull New York. The Metrostars, the team that Tab Ramos, Tony Meola, and Tim Howard built, plays for the large area full of the best soccer fans in the United States of America. The team was bought by Austrian soda and then completely stripped of it’s soul and meaning when the team itself was renamed as a beverage. The Metrostars. The soccer team. An important club which plays a team sport that represents a place, not a foreign product. A major team, not an advertising device for a very poor food product that not only tastes awful, but is terrible for you and sends a ridiculous message. Until this whole fiasco blows over, we’ll have to remember that behind the whole mess splashed on our jerseys telling us to mix caffeine and sugar with alcohol or drink it before playing sports, that there is a team that many great athletes have honorably competed for and will continue to do so.
Our MLS team is in the playoffs for the ninth time in ten seasons. Tonight in Harrison they will take on our old adversary, Washinton DC United, in the second leg after a bizarre 1-1 tie in RFK. The city will see the next episode in a historic soccer community where fans are waiting for hardware that only the Metrostars can deliver.